A big question most fathers ask is what rights they have to their child if they are not listed on the birth certificate. If a couple is married, it is always presumed that the husband is the father of the child, but it is not so simple if a couple has a child while being unmarried. In short, if you are not on the birth certificate you have no legal rights to the child. There is a difference in being the biological father versus being the legal father. If you are not listed as the father on the birth certificate you have no rights to custody, visitation, or paying child support.
To establish a father’s legal rights to their child it is required that they establish paternity. Paternity is the acknowledgement that you have fathered the child and will begin taking legal responsibility for the child. Legal responsibility for a child can come in many forms such as health insurance, food, shelter, clothing, etc.
There are a few ways that paternity can be established. The first is voluntarily through what is known as an Acknowledgement of Paternity. This form is typically filled out at the hospital prior to the birth of the child. From there that form must be sent off to the appropriate government office. This form can be presented to the father to remove all doubts regarding the child’s father and is typically filled out with both the mother and father being present at the hospital. If the parties are married once this is done the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate immediately. If the parties are not married this form must be filled out prior to the father’s name being added to the birth certificate. This Acknowledgement is sent to the Bureau of Vital Statistics located in Austin. Once this form is accepted, the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate.
If the mother of the child is unsure about who the father of her child is, signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity voluntarily is not likely. However, there is another option where the parents can go through the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General to help confirm the paternity. This paternity test is administered free of charge through the Attorney General’s services.
In establishing paternity, it is important to understand how beneficial it can be for both the child and the father. Starting with the child, the earlier that paternity is established the quicker a child will be eligible for health insurance coverage through their father. This is most important during the beginning years of a child’s life when many doctor’s visits are required with the various preventative shots children are required to be administered. This can also help if your child falls to a sudden illness or is diagnosed with a chronic condition requiring ongoing medical treatment. Next, a father who has legal rights to their child will help establish the parent-child relationship between the two. Unfortunately, most children grow up in one-parent households and having both parents in a child’s life is critical for their development.
On the other hand, establishing paternity early can help a father as well. For example, if a father who has had paternity established has had his rights to the child infringed on by the mother, he can seek enforcement of those rights. He can also seek an enforcement of rights and duties that violate a court order. The father can also become a party to any legal case involving the child if paternity is established and can even seek an enforcement. It is also beneficial for the health of the child, because the father’s family medical history will be available and can warn of any medical issues the child can potentially inherit.
If you have legally been determined to be the father of a child you are known as an “adjudicated” father. This legal determination is made through the courts when a mother or an “alleged” father files suit to determine the paternity. If you are the filing party of a paternity suit you will carry the burden of establishing the paternity. This is done through DNA testing.
If you have voluntarily adjudicated paternity but begin to have doubts as to the paternity of the child, it is helpful to know that an acknowledgement is not permanent. However, there are time limitations on when an Acknowledgement can be rescinded. A rescission is the cancellation of the acknowledgment and the parties will treat it as if the acknowledgment were never signed in the first place, basically returning the parties to the position they were in before the acknowledgement was signed. To do so, the party seeking rescission must do so within 60 days of the Acknowledgement being received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
If you are the legal father to a child and believe otherwise, you must file a lawsuit to counter the legal relationship that was established. However, there is a statute of limitations on when this action can be brought and any suit filed after one year of the date the father had reason to believe he was not the father of the child will be absolutely barred. If the father presents a strong enough case, DNA testing will be ordered by the Judge. If DNA testing comes back negative all rights and duties to the child will be terminated, leaving the mother to her own means to establish paternity for the child.
Establishing paternity for a child as early as possible is greatly recommended. The harsh reality surrounding paternity can have negative effects on a child as studies have shown what it is growing up without a father. If you have not established this paternity it is important to know that you do not have legal rights to a child. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we have attorneys ready to assist you if you are dealing with issues regarding paternity. Please call our office to set up a FREE 30-minute consultation to speak with an expert about your specific circumstances.